Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories relate animals and humans

Pamela Shapiro

Colorado State University is a place where Rams take care of Rams— this doesn’t just mean students, but animals as well.

In the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories, Fort Collins community members, students and the public can get information about their animal, or discover if the animal has a disease such as cancer.

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Associate Dean of the DVM program Dr. Barbara Powers said these laboratories are used to test and obtain samples from live or deceased animals.

Tess Rychener, a first year vetrinary student, sits outside the James L. Voss Vetrinary Teaching Hospital. She hopes to work in an animal shelter some day. (Photo By: Megan Fischer)
Tess Rychener, a first year veterinary student, sits outside the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She hopes to work in an animal shelter some day. (Photo By: Megan Fischer)

“We do things that are public health-related, so right now, we are having problems with rabies in the state and it’s mostly in raccoons, skunks and bats,” Powers said. “If anyone finds any of these animals that are already dead, they bring it to us and we check it for rabies because rabies can kill people.”

Powers said these laboratories take samples from severely diseased animals in order to protect people in the community, as well as other animals.  

“Everything we do is an animal sample,” Powers said. “We don’t do human samples, although it can effect humans.”

These laboratories are not simply for Fort Collins, or even Colorado, because they receive samples from all over the world.

“It’s open to the entire public – we’re open to the entire state, but also the region,” Powers said. “We also work with the United States Department of Agriculture, so we do some testing for them. We get samples from all over the country, including Canada and Japan. We get samples from all over the place.” 

Powers said the job can get sad when they have to see animals who were victims of animal abuse.

“We all kind of are used to seeing dead animals, but sometimes it’s kind of hard,” Powers said. “Another service that we do provide is for animal cruelty cases. If someone suspects animal cruelty, we do the investigations to see if cruelty was involved, and then report it back to the state. That can be really sad, but it’s also really important that those people are prosecuted because that can lead to human abuse as well.”

Although the job gets sad sometimes, Powers said it is very rewarding.

“I feel like I’m helping people and their animals,” Powers said. “I feel like we are protecting public health.”

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Kristy Pabilonia, associate professor and microbiology section head of the diagnostic laboratories, said she hopes to see the laboratories continue to improve over time.

“The goals are really just to be on the forefront of science and make sure that we are offering the best possible diagnostics to our clients so they can get the best and most accurate answer possible,” Pabilonia said.

Tests are conducted in order to see if animal disease can be spread to humans, according to Pabilonia.

“We try to keep the U.S. free from disease, and that’s very important to us,” Pabilonia said.

Diagnostic Virologist Christie Mayo is involved with virus-related work, and said she finds this job, which entails cutting-edge research, to be extremely beneficial.

“Some of the most rewarding things are being able to deliver really good results in a timely fashion and making a difference,” Mayo said. “When we get to have that rewarding moment of turning things around, that’s really fun. It keeps us on our toes.”

Collegian Reporter Pamela Shapiro can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @pb_shapiro.